Rebuilding after a bushfire
What do I need for demolition?
A building permit is required before you can demolish a building or part of a building, unless the demolition is directed under a building notice, building order or emergency order. Demolition work must be undertaken by a licensed practitioner if the cost of works exceeds $10,000.
When do I need a building permit?
A building permit is required to carry out building work, unless a specific exemption exists or the work is directed under a building notice, building order or emergency order. To rebuild a residential house impacted by a bushfire, you will need to obtain a building permit. Not all building projects require a building permit, and possible exemptions may include:
- some minor alterations or demolitions
- pergolas associated with houses; and
- some garden sheds with a floor area less than 10m2.
How to apply for a building permit
Before applying for a building permit, you need to appoint a registered building surveyor and apply for a building permit through them. There are different processes for appointing a building surveyor, depending on whether they are a municipal or private building surveyor.
- If you decide to engage a municipal building surveyor, you do not need to formally appoint them – simply apply to your local council for a building permit.
- Only an owner or agent of the owner may appoint a private building surveyor. It is not the role of the local council or the VBA to appoint a private building surveyor. By law, your builder cannot’ appoint the building surveyor.
What documentation do I need to provide?
To apply for a permit, you need to:
- submit at least three copies of drawings, specifications and allotment plans, along with the completed application form and other prescribed information.
- pay the building permit levy yourself or through a person authorised to do so.
Who can be the builder?
Registered building practitioners
If you are carrying out domestic building work (e.g. rebuilding a house), you’ll need to use a registered building practitioner if the value of the work is more than $10,000. You can also check if a building practitioner or company is registered using our Find a practitioner portal.
You may wish to carry out the domestic building work as an owner-builder, where you will be responsible for carrying out the work on your own land. If the value of the domestic building work you will be doing is over $16,000, you will need to obtain a certificate of consent from the VBA to be an owner-builder.
To find out more, please visit Owner-builder eligibility or the VBA’s Owner-builder fact sheet.
If you are engaging a contractor for domestic building work valued at more than $10,000 (including materials and labour), and the project involves more than one type of work (e.g. it is not just tiling), you and your building practitioner are required to have a major domestic building contract. The contract must meet the requirements of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995.
Visit the Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) website for valuable information and advice about domestic building contracts.
Planning permits give permission to develop or use land and may be required for a new home, extension, renovation or an additional dwelling on the land. Your local council is responsible for issuing a planning permit. If you need a planning permit, it must be issued by your local council before you can obtain a building permit.
Bushfire Prone Areas
Victoria’s bushfire prone areas (BPAs) have been determined using up-to-date scientific information and data, considering factors such as weather, topography and vegetation. If you are going to rebuild within a BPA, you will need a bushfire attack level (BAL) assessment under AS 3959 Construction of Buildings in Bushfire Prone Areas. All new homes constructed in a BPA must be built to a minimum BAL 12.5 to help withstand ember attack. This includes sealing roofs, sealing around doors and windows, and screening windows.
Higher construction levels may be required as determined by the site BAL assessment. The State Government is considering prescribing BAL levels for bushfire-affected areas. BAL levels should be assessed on the basis of the likely revegetated state following regrowth of burnt areas.
Bushfire Management Overlay
If you are in an area of extreme bushfire hazard, it is likely that your property will be in a Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) and your council’s planning scheme will apply to its development and use. You will need to apply for a planning permit in addition to applying for a building permit. Referral to fire authorities may also be required to confirm particular site requirements for firefighting and property protection.
For more information about building under a BMO, contact your local council or visit the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Bushfire Management Overlay page.
In your building permit, your building surveyor will specify the mandatory inspections that will be required throughout the course of the building work. They will also specify whether you need an occupancy permit or a certificate of final inspection on completion of the building work.
Occupancy Permit or Certificate of Final Inspection
When you come to the end of your building project, you will need an occupancy permit or a certificate of final inspection. If you need an occupancy permit, it is an offence under the Building Act 1993 to occupy any new building before you have received the permit. Your building surveyor will issue an occupancy permit when they are satisfied the building is suitable for occupation.
Further information and resources
- VBA bushfire protection guidance resources.
- Find a registered building surveyor in your local area through the VBA’s Find a Practitioner portal or the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors website.
- Find a registered draftsperson to complete architectural drawings through the VBA’s Find a Practitioner portal, Design Matters (formerly the Building Designers Association of Victoria) or the Australian Institute of Architects.